Friday 24 May 2024
 11.3°C   NNE Gentle Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Transport / NorthLink ferries to be restricted to ‘essential’ travel only

Photo: NorthLink Ferries

NORTHLINK Ferries will no longer take “non-essential” travellers following concern over people heading to the Highlands and Islands in an attempt to “avoid coronavirus”.

Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson confirmed the move on Sunday (22 March), with CalMac on the west coast also affected.

There have been reports of people with second homes and campervans travelling to the Highlands recently.

He said: “With immediate effect ferry companies will no longer take non-essential travellers.

“From now on ferries will be for those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to or from the mainland and for essential supplies or business. Nothing else.

“Those who do not normally live on the islands and have traveled there in the last few days will be able to leave to reduce pressure.”

NorthLink said all bookings are now suspended, with “anyone seeking to travel and complying with the criteria for travel will be asked to comply with these requirements and book at the port of departure”.

“Those with existing bookings may be able to travel but customers will be informed that we will decline travel for recreational or social purposes,” it added.

“Customers are advised that bookings should be for essential travel only and if travelling to the islands that we cannot guarantee return travel. Special arrangements will apply to key workers and further advice will become available later Monday 23rd March.”

First minister Nicola Sturgeon meanwhile said on Sunday that “you risk taking it [coronavirus] to the places you go”.

“In remote and rural communities that means extra pressure on health services that are already more distant from people.”

Rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing said on Saturday that he was “furious at the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of some people travelling to the Highland and Islands”.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

 

“Let me be crystal clear, people should not be travelling to rural and island communities full stop,” he added. “They are endangering lives.”

NorthLink – which is operated by Serco on behalf of the Scottish Government – says that anyone exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 should not be travelling, while it has also installed extra hand sanitation points.

The company connects Shetland with Aberdeen and Kirkwall, while it also runs a service between Scrabster and Stromness.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “It’s vital that lifeline ferry services are kept running to support island business and essential travel and that crew are not exposed to unacceptable risks.

“This is a necessary and sensible measure to help protect islanders, island health services and those crew members.

“Whilst Shetland is very welcoming to tourists, this is not the time to visit the isles. I cannot stress that enough.”

Unst, meanwhile, featured in a guide in Saturday’s Daily Mail of rural places in Britain to isolate in during the outbreak.

Shetland, however, has had the highest number of confirmed cases in relation to population when it comes to Scotland’s health board areas.

Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson said the travel restriction is not in place on the inter-island ferries.

“Although as the situation develops we will change and review all procedures as and when required,” he said.

Shetland’s inter-island flights, however, are only currently taking bookings for islanders or people providing essential services.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.

 

Newsletters

Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.